People have been using drugs for pleasure or recreation for as far back as we can remember. In fact, records suggest that ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia used opium in 5000 B.C., while alcohol dates back to 3500 B.C. Today, in the U.S.A, about 12.8 million people over the age of 12 use illegal drugs on a regular basis. Though it's down 50 percent from the all-time high of 25 million in 1979, drug abuse is still a big problem. Today's most commonly abused drugs are alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. 90 percent of all people who have used illegal drugs have used marijuana or hashish. While marijuana does not usually lead to physical dependence, it can be psychologically addictive. Nicotine is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and is, by far, the most heavily used addictive drug in the country. Nicotine can be absorbed into the bloodstream from chewing, inhaling or smoking a tobacco product. Quitting can be difficult. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, headaches, irritability, depressed mood, hunger and an intense craving for cigarettes. Approximately 8 percent of Americans abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. People who abuse alcohol might not be physically dependent on the substance, but could be on their way to addiction. Alcohol abuse is most rampant among young adults and teenagers. In fact, one in three 12th graders report having five or more drinks on at least one occasion within the past two weeks. Teens who drink are more likely to engage in sexual activity, have unprotected sex, or have sex with a stranger. Drinking excessively may also lead to the use of other drugs, like marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. Statistics show that 20 percent of people in the U.S. have used prescription medication, like painkillers, sedatives and stimulants, for non-medical reasons. And 15 percent of high school seniors abuse them. For teens, they are the second most popular drugs behind marijuana. Some experts believe that prescription drugs are edging out cocaine, LSD and other so-called party drugs because they are much easier for teenagers to come by. If parents have leftover pills sitting in the medicine cabinet, they might not suspect that their kids could want to try them. And kids don't realize JUST how addictive these prescriptions can be. The most common prescription drugs used for recreation are codeine, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. People using them recreationally may crush them up and snort them to get a high. And because their street prices are so steep, for instance oxycontin can go for $80 a pill, some people turn to cheaper drugs, like heroin. Because these drugs can be so prevalent, many people make the mistake of thinking that they are not dangerous or addictive. If you, or someone you know, may have a problem with one of these substances, or are having a difficult time trying to quit; talk to a medical professional, who can help you find the help you need.
Prescription Painkillers Can Be Fatal
Heroin Use on the Rise
Using Opium Painkillers to Treat Stomach Pain
Self-Medicating College Students
More Rural Teens Look to 'Mother's Little Helpers'
Teen Tobacco and Alcohol use Down, Pot Still Hot
Mixed Report Card on Teen Substance Use
When the Want Becomes a Need
Last Updated:December 20, 2012